Background: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a devastating malignancy with a poor prognosis and little treatment options. The development and progression of the disease is fostered by inflammatory cells and cytokines. One of these cytokines is interleukin-6 (IL-6), which plays an important role in a wide range of biologic activities.
Data sources: A systematic search of PubMed was performed to identify relevant studies using key words such as interleukin-6, inflammatory cytokines, inflammation and pancreatic cancer or PDAC. Articles related to IL-6 and pancreatic cancer were systematically reviewed.
Results: IL-6 is elevated in the serum of pancreatic cancer patients and correlates with cachexia, advanced tumor stage and poor survival. Its expression is enhanced by hypoxia and proteins involved in pancreatic cancer development like Kras, mesothelin or ZIP4. IL-6 in turn contributes to the generation of a pro-tumorigenic microenvironment and is probably involved in angiogenesis and metastasis. In experimental mouse models of PDAC, IL-6 was important for the development and progression of precursor lesions.
Conclusion: IL-6 emerges as a key player in pancreatic cancer development and progression, and hence should be considered as a new therapeutic target.